Almost orbital, solar-powered drone offered as “atmospheric satellite”

WASHINGTON—At the AUVSI Unmanned Systems conference, New Mexico-based startup Titan Aerospace unveiled the company’s prototypes for “atmospheric satellites”—autonomous unmanned aircraft powered purely by solar energy and capable of staying aloft at high altitude for up to five years. The first commercially manufactured long-endurance solar drone, the Solara 50, is under construction now and is expected to fly next year. A bigger drone, the Solara 60, will soon follow.

While solar-powered flight has been a reality since the early 1980s, Titan is the first company to work on commercially manufacturing solar-powered drones. And unlike some of the prototypes that have been flown by the established players in the aerospace and unmanned systems field, the Solara drones are based on well-worn technologies and simplicity in design.

If successful, Titan could change the economics of businesses that have previously depended on low-orbit satellites and allow for a persistent coverage closer to what satellites in geostationary orbit provide.

Written by Sean Gallagher. To read the full article, click here.

Plane Powered by Solar Energy Completes Trek Across U.S.

Planes make trips across the U.S. all the time. Nothing too special, right? Except a solar-powered one just traveled cross-country for the first time.

The Solar Impulse, which is a solar-powered plane, traveled from San Francisco in early May to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. It finally landed at 11:09 p.m. last Saturday night.

What took the plane so long, you ask? It made stops in between San Francisco and New York in cities such as Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Dulles, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

The Solar Impulse is equipped with about 11,000 solar cells on a pair of jumbo wings. It would fly from early morning to late at night, collecting sunlight for a completely fuel-free flight. The aircraft would reach 30,000 feet off the ground at a top speed of 45 mph.

Written by Tiffany Kaiser. To read the full article, click here